Google proposes new DNS protocol extension

An interesting proposal was announced on the official Google Code Blog this week. In a lengthy draft, a group of DNS and content providers (including Google) outline the concept of extending the DNS protocol to include part of a user's IP address. DNS works by translating friendly domain names to a numeric address.

Currently, the address of a user's ISP or a third party resolver is used. Utilizing the individual's IP address will send the request to a nearby server, reducing latency and creating a better experience for the customer. This is especially important to those using a large DNS resolver, as servers several countries away could be processing the request.

According to Google, the proposed DNS protocol would only send the first three octets (top 24 bits) of an IP address to determine the location, yet protect the privacy, of the user. Skeptics, on the other hand, question the motives surrounding the protocol. Is this just another way for companies to monitor what customers are doing on the internet? We should know within a few months if the proposal is accepted as a new internet standard.

Below is an excerpt of the draft. The entire proposal can be viewed on The Internet Engineering Task Force website.

"Authoritative Nameservers of most major web sites today return different replies based on the perceived vicinity of the user to a particular location and knowledge of available resources.  This significantly reduces the overall latency of connections established by the end user and optimizes network resource usage.

To find the best reply for a given query, most nameservers use the IP address of the incoming query to attempt to establish the location of the end user.

Most users today, however, do not query the Authoritative Nameserver directly.  Instead, queries are relayed by Recursive Resolvers operated by their ISP or third parties.

When the Recursive Resolver does not use an IP address that appears to be topologically close to the end user, the results returned by those Authoritative Nameservers will be at best sub-optimal.

This draft proposes a DNS protocol extension to enable Authoritative Nameservers to return answers based on the network address of the actual client, by allowing Recursive Resolvers to include it in queries."

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